Christmas is traditionally a happy time for family, especially for children. However, for some separated parents, it can be a difficult and stressful time, and disputes can arise over how their children should spend time over the Christmas holiday period.
Here are some suggestions when considering arrangements for your children in the lead-up to Christmas.
Be Prepared - Don’t leave it to the last minute. It is best to start making arrangements with the other parent as soon as possible, because if agreement cannot be reached you may have to make a court application to seek the arrangements you want.
The Family Law Courts experience a high volume of applications during this period. The Family Court of Australia imposes a national deadline each year to ensure that arrangements for children for the Christmas and summer school holiday period are heard and determined promptly. For 2016, this deadline has already passed, and it is likely that any application made now will not be listed until early 2017, unless your application is assessed to be urgent.
You may still be able to lodge an application in the Federal Circuit Court, where there is no specific deadline, however the later you leave it, the more likely that your application will not be considered prior to Christmas.
Be Respectful - Christmas is a special time of year, when your children want to be happy and have fun. They don’t want to be in the middle of your conflict or hear you argue over them, so make sure you discuss these matters in private and that handovers are civil. If you find seeing the other parent too difficult, then consider if family or friends familiar to your children might help with handover.
Compromise - Negotiate, but remember your children are not possessions. When discussing arrangements for children with others, you should remain “child focused.” Think about the interests of your children ahead of your own. Children often want to spend time with the important adults in their life during special times. This includes grandparents and extended family.
Try to be fair. For example, one particularly special time for parents is watching their children wake up on Christmas Day to open their presents. If one parent had this experience one year, consider whether it can be agreed that the arrangements be reversed the following year.
And always remember, you are in control of these decisions whilst you are discussing these arrangements. If you don't agree, then the decision might be left to a Judge, and you may not like the outcome.
Look After Yourself - It is normal to grieve or feel sad during this period, particularly if it is your first Christmas without your children, or without your husband, wife or partner. Take some time out to think about ways of coping and make sure you plan time with your own friends and relatives to avoid being alone. If you find yourself struggling mentally, seek medical help or counselling.
Seek advice - There are times agreement is simply not possible or where you need some extra support to reach the right arrangements for your children. It is important in these circumstances to obtain legal advice. Our firm provides Family Law assistance during the Christmas holiday period. To discuss your circumstances and find out how we can help, please contact us on 8125 7000.
Rossi Legal provides legal services in relation to all Family Law issues including: